Mediation in the Family Court
1. What is mediation?
Mediation is a required Family Court process where persons are given an opportunity to resolve their differences and make their own agreement which, when signed by a Judge or Commissioner, becomes an Order of the Court.
2. Is mediation required in all cases?
Yes. Mediation is required in virtually all civil cases. The Court believes that all parties should attempt to mediate their differences and reach an agreement. Although a motion to bypass mediation may be filed, it would normally be granted only in exceptional situations.
3. Is mediation required in cases where there is domestic violence?
If there is a no contact order between the parties or if one of the parties is found to have committed an act of domestic violence against the other party, there will be no mediation of custody or visitation issues. Child support would, however, be mediated.
4. What will the mediator do?
The mediator will ask each party what their position is regarding the issue before the Court. The mediator also will go over some possible resolutions to the case. If the parties come to an agreement, the mediator prepares a consent order which all parties sign. If no settlement is reached at mediation, the case will be scheduled for a formal court hearing.
5. How should I prepare for mediation?
You should complete all forms mailed to you and bring evidence to support your position with you to mediation (such as proof of support payments or medical statements from doctors). You are permitted, but not required, to bring an attorney to your mediation session. If you are considering obtaining an attorney, do so immediately as your mediation will not be continued to allow you time to secure the services of an attorney.
6. Who can attend mediation?
The petitioner and respondent must attend and their attorneys may attend. Children do not attend the mediation conference. Witnesses are not allowed for mediation.
7. What happens if mediation is not successful?
If no settlement is reached at mediation, the case will be scheduled for a formal court hearing. In custody/visitation cases, parents must complete a parent education program before their case is scheduled before a Judge. The mediator may recommend an Interim Order (a temporary order) for the Judge or Commissioner to sign if there is no prior Order for visitation or support.
8. Can the mediator predict the outcome of my case if it goes to a Judge or Commissioner?
No. Each case in Family Court is decided on the information presented at the hearing. However, in child support cases, the Judges and Commissioners usually follow the Delaware Child Support Formula which the mediator will calculate to determine an appropriate amount of support. Please remember that the mediator cannot give you legal advice.
9. How do I request a continuance of my mediation?
A request for a continuance is required to be made in writing to the appropriate mediator no less than five days prior to the mediation conference. The request must contain the following information:
The original filing date of the petition.
The mediator will consider all of the above in determining whether to grant the continuance.
If you filed the petition, the mediator may recommend that the petition be dismissed. If you are the respondent and notice was sent to your last known address, the mediator may recommend that a capias be issued for your arrest or recommend an order granting the relief requested by the petitioner.